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Yankees Mailbag: The sign-stealing letter, backup shortstops, and contract management

The mailbag dives into what the Yankees could be expecting with MLB’s letter set to be released.

Oakland Athletics v Toronto Blue Jays Photo by Brad White/Getty Images

Good afternoon everyone, it’s time for another edition of the mailbag. Now that the endless offseason is over, we’re back to weekly editions of the mailbag, and we’ve got plenty to discuss! Remember to send in your questions for our weekly call by e-mail to pinstripealleyblog [at] gmail [dot] com.

Michael H. asks: What’s the opinion of Pinstripe Alley on the MLB letter to the Yankees about sign stealing? I’m thinking this is going to be a nothingburger, but I’m biased.

This is just my opinion, but I don’t think it will be nothing. The controversy stems at the cutoff point for when MLB effectively told teams that it would actually be enforcing the sign-stealing policies — before then, it’s fair to assume that many teams were doing something shady but the league largely turned a blind eye to it. Once the scrutiny turned up, however, there became a major stigma against the Astros for continuing past that and getting caught.

We know that the Red Sox were penalized for their Apple Watch scandal around the same time, and that the Yankees were fined for an improper use of their dugout phones. If the letter revolves around that, or details infractions from beforehand, then I don’t think the Yankees will have much of a problem on their hands. If there is substance to the letter, and it goes deeper into 2017 than we initially believed, then there’s cause for concern — both for the Yankees and MLB.

Morbus42 asks: Will Torres be the primary backup at SS? Will he be the first option to fill in to give Kiner-Falefa a rest day? Will he replace Kiner-Falefa if out long term? Or will Yanks have another option for all scenarios keeping Torres at second no matter what?

As it stands, yes — Torres will be the backup for Kiner-Falefa at shortstop, and play there with DJ LeMahieu filling in at second whenever the starting shortstop needs a day off. It’s possible that non-roster invitee Marwin González makes the Opening Day roster as well though, and with 304 games of big league experience at shortstop (albeit just 13 since the end of 2018), he could back up as well if the Yankees really want to avoid Torres at shortstop. José Peraza is another NRI option if the team opts for a different direction than González.

Should Kiner-Falefa be out for an extended period, however, then the team’s remaining depth in middle infielders will fill the gap. Oswaldo Cabrera is the closest to the majors, with Oswald Peraza close behind him, and the former appears lined up for a debut at some point this season.

Darth Lazarus asks: Why are Yankee contract plans seemingly inconsistent when it comes to long versus short term strategy? They gave Hicks and DJ long term to lower average and they’re arguably getting a steal (by today’s rates) on the Stanton contract, yet they’re making moves now in the opposite. No deals longer than two years. Wouldn’t inflation if nothing else make long term deal with opt outs more team financially friendly?

It’s not so much that they’re inconsistent, rather, that they balance their roster budget around affordable long-term deals and more expensive short-term ones. This gives them some flexibility in re-tooling the roster if it isn’t working, as they just did this offseason, as well as secure some cornerstone pieces for the roster at cheaper rates. Now, it’s unlucky that so far they’ve missed on more of those long-term deals (Severino, Hicks) than they’ve hit (Stanton), but the logic is there. As to the way inflation factors into their deals, I can’t really speak to that, but I am surprised that the Yankees seemingly haven’t tried deferred payments in deals like the Nationals and Dodgers have done.

Peter M. asks: Just one question. Where is Gardy? There has to be room on the team for him. I’m sure he is staying in playing shape but time is running short.

The team may be holding his locker for him, but I don’t think that Brett Gardner is coming back this time. As John wrote recently, Tim Locastro seems to be occupying the roster spot that Gardner would best serve. It also seemed like it was a last-minute decision to bring back Gardner last year, perhaps influenced by concerns over Clint Frazier’s health that wound up being warranted. Frazier has been replaced by Gallo now, and the team has some newfound veteran leadership in the locker room. It would appear that Gardner’s time in pinstripes is coming to a close; whether that means he’s done as a major leaguer or not is another topic.

set.builder39 asks: Have you ever answered an unanswerable question?

Probably not.